Monday, March 30, 2009

Preliminary Shower Post

I have so many thoughts and feelings running through my mind after our whirlwind vacation and shower in MI. I know that I do not have the time right now to write an adequate post to describe it all while I am still processing much of what happened, but I wanted to write something of my initial feelings and responses to the weekend.

I was so honored by how many people attended the shower and I loved getting to see so many of my friends who I have only been able to see in passing during rushed holiday visits and hurried stops at church events. I was also doubly honored by the people who attended or sent something who I have never met before-- from the friends of my Grandmother and Aunt Susie in Missouri who made us a blanket and an afghan, to my brother's mother-in-law, who not only attended my shower, but brought us a roast and oven-baked potatoes for everyone to eat.

The idea of all of the work that my dad, Melissa and Melinda put into making the experience a special one is so honoring. Even a few days before the shower I realized that I didn't know even the details of what time the shower began. I was able to simply show up and enjoy seeing all of our visitors.

Thankfully, everyone was kind and gave us small gifts so that we-- with a duffel bag borrowed from Jim's mom-- were able to bring most things back to MN, aside from a few fragile and oversized items, and some that just wouldn't fit (my parents will be bringing us a carload when they come out for Noah's birth). We are now surrounded by so much baby stuff. Noah will be one of the best-dressed babies around-- and one of the warmest. I think that everyone knew that in Minnesota our little boy would need plenty of blankets to snuggle down in and be kept cozy and warm. Currently everything is still in semi-organized piles on the couch, as we decide how we are going to store our abundance in our apartment until we get a house.

I am so thankful that I got to see everyone, but it seemed like just mere minutes and everything was over. And now I am on to the point in my pregnancy where everything all seems so close to being over. Since Christmas the idea of travelling so far while so pregnant has been looming-- would I even make it this far, and how would I handle the long car/plane ride? How would people who haven't seen me in so long react to suddenly seeing me so big? Now all of that worry and stress is over. The plane rides and car trips were taxing, but not nearly as bad as 11 hours of driving each way would have been, and all of the worry over would I even make it has been answered with a resounding yes.

I will try to post pictures soon, and share how all of our abundance looks here where Noah will live, and give more detailed thanks to everyone later as well, but right now I am so distracted by the mountains of onesies tottering precariously on our couch.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Things I Still Miss From MI

This weekend we are travelling to MI to see friends- the last time I am allowed to travel by plane before D-Day. So I thought that I would write about the things that I still miss from MI, and hope we can do a few of while we are back.

1. Friends and family that we have known for years. Everyone out here at our new church is great, but there is just something that comes from knowing the same people for years and years. Job changes, relationship changes, happy and sad life events are not something that can happen in a few short months, and I am looking forward to knowing people here as we do back home. And our families, well, they have to accept us, no matter what, and nothing else is like that.

2. Campus Kitchen-- I miss General Tso's chicken. Cheap and good, and Jim misses it so much more than I do. I miss going to the ponds at WMU and feeding spicy rice to the ducks, being able to eat well for $5 for the 2 of us. I miss Rasa Ria-- the Malaysian restaurant with the square egg rolls and stuffed tofu. I'm sure we will find "our Campus Kitchen" and other places out here, especially because of our large SE Asian community, but it again takes time to discover new places that meet our requirements.

3. I miss saying, "The Mall," and having everyone know exactly where I am talking about. Here it most likely means The Mall of America (MOA) but it could mean the Nicollett Mall downtown, or any number of other suburban malls surrounding the metro. There was something so easy about that. The same goes for Targets-- I recently counted and we have at least 10 that I have visited more than once-- no surprise with the headquarters being here.

4. I miss being close to the Great Lakes. Duluth is the closest and it is 1 1/2 hours away. It was so nice to just decide after work in the summer to head out to Lake Michigan for the sunset, and to enjoy festivals and fireworks.

5. I miss East Campus. Where Jim proposed, and where I have enjoyed looking out over the city many a time.

6. The roads. Getting from point A to point B-- so simple. Only 2 highways! So few names for towns-- no 70 or so suburbs and 30 or so neighborhoods like in Minneapolis. The roads really are in such good condition too. There is really nothing to be done with the cold around here; potholes are an inevitability that is really hard on the car.

7. My parents house on the island. I miss boating- kayaks, speedboats, rowboats, canoes, sailboats. I miss sitting in back of the house in summer with a fire going. I miss eating cheese souffles, and 4th of July watching fireworks all around the lake. I miss my parents and my brother's companionship.

8. I miss the Taylor's basement. Well, the whole house really. Where Jim and I met, where I have learned so much in small group, Veritas, work meetings, making soap, wedding and baby showers, and just getting together with friends.

9. On a related note, I miss small group. So funny and quirky-- Thanksgiving in February, white elephant gift exchanges, and Super Mario DDR. One of, if not THE longest running small group from The River.

10. Popping in to visit kids I once taught at school. Either at a party, or a concert, or on a random day, it is always wonderful to see how they have grown and succeed.

11. Lunch after church at Panera, QDoba, or Saladays.

12. QDoba!

13. Water Street Coffee Joint.

14. Visiting my dad at the fire station. (Not really possible now that he is retired, but it was always nice to hear what was going on, and to go up in the Ladder truck.)

15. Driving around campus and rejoicing that we are done with WMU and its horrible parking.

16. Attending shows at Miller Auditorium. I could count regularly on someone from the group of my parents friends deciding not to go to a show and me being offered a ticket. Or covering a show for the paper.

17. Getting to cover cool events for the paper.

18. The Edison Task Force. I never thought I would miss getting sweaty, stinky and covered in paint, but I miss hanging out at John's house and painting.

19. Driving up to Traverse City. North Peak Brewing Company, Scalawags fish sandwiches, and just relaxing on the pier or in the park.

20. Going to the UP.

I know that we are not meant to come back or anything, but every time we visit, there are so many memories, both good and bad, that flood my mind. I hope that our son will get to experience some of these things. I hope that he will still feel some connection to MI, even though he will be a born Minnesotan. That he will know that mom and dad are both irrevocably tied to this state and the people that we miss. Love to you all and see some of you soon!
Monday, March 23, 2009

Labor Music

I am trying to put together a list of music to listen to wile laboring. I think when I am to the point of pushing, I may just want peace and quiet, but for at least a few hours, I think it will be nice and help the time pass. We will probably also do some of our favorite movies to help time pass since that is such a vital part of our relationship and how we began to be friends and eventually date.

When I was teaching- especially during summer program when I would have my K-5th graders all day and we were hot and tired, and I would be stressed, I started the practice of putting in an upbeat song and grabbing some of the kids to dance, just to relieve the stress of the day. Hopefully it will have a similar effect on me during this time of stress.

So far my musical choices are,
  • Nichole Nordeman
  • Caedmon's Call
  • The Sundays
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo (some "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes" is in order.)
  • Eva Cassidy
  • Bob Marley
  • some classical
  • "Streams" this very calm Irish CD I have

Anyone have any further thoughts on musical choices that will induce Noah to dance his way out of me?

I will probably get more response to this from Facebook than here, but I love the feature of writing in one location and automatically having the note imported there. I always forgot to mention something or post something in one location or another before I did it this way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Noah's Irregular Heartbeat

Let me first of all say, for friends and family near and far, that Noah is fine. He is happily growing away and making is mom gain at least a pound and a half a week-- which is welcome after her earlier lack of weight gain. However, we did have a little scare, that I am even reluctant to call a scare in retrospect, although at the time, my new mother's heart was aflutter with nerves, which is very similar to what my little baby Noah's heart was up to about three weeks ago at my regular prenatal appointment. Everything was decidedly routine until it came time to listen to Noah's heart.

Dr. Ambur found it easily-- he has been laying head down and butt out for the past several weeks, but after she found it, both she and I heard something unusual. "I think I need to go get a new Doppler. It might be the battery that is making it sound strange." Noah's heart, although good and strong sounded odd to me even still when Dr. Ambur came back with the new Doppler and listened with a much more serious face than usually when she heard his heart.

She told us that she heard an irregularity in it, which is exactly what I heard when I listened. Every fourth beat or so Noah's heart would beat an extra beat-- "bum, bum bum, bah bum," it would go. I immediately began to fear that something was terribly wrong wit my sweet little baby, but Dr. Ambur told us that it was likely something far more common called a PAC-- "Premature Atrial Contraction," which is found commonly in fetuses in the third trimester.

Typically babies with PACs outgrow them in the womb, or shortly after birth. Dr. Ambur advised that we wait and listen in a week, at an appointment between my regular bi-weekly appointments. The addition of a new appointment told me more than anything that if this wasn't PACs it could be something serious, but I told myself to not worry and to relax over the next week to encourage Noah to have a regular heartbeat (one possible cause of PACs is stress.)

I spent the next 7 days thinking calming thoughts to my baby, avoiding sugar and caffeine and researching everything I could find about PACs and irregular heartbeats in pre-born babies. I found out good things about their commonness-- about 15% of babies have PACs. I heard from women in the May What to Expect When You Are Expecting (WTEWYE) message board-- their experience ranged from experiencing just what I was and waiting to see if their baby was okay, to having gone through it in past pregnancies. Some babies simply outgrew it, and others had fetal EKGs and other heart monitoring tests just shortly after birth. One woman's doctor even had her baby placed in the NICU for 3 days shortly after birth simply as a precaution.

I also asked my good friend and wonderful doctor Sara if she knew anything about PAC, and said that although she didn't she would ask a friend of hers who was a pediatric cardiologist what she knew. The answers I got were very soothing, and I really appreciated getting an answer from someone who, I am sure, is often deluged by more medical questions than she would like.

Finally, the next week arrived and my next appointment. Jim and I waited nervously-- he kept insisting that it would totally be gone, or at least much improved, and thankfully-- he was right. This time Noah's heart still had some irregular beats, but it was every 12 or so, rather than every 4 beats. This improvement seemed to confirm that he really was outgrowing it, and Dr. Ambur was content to wait until the next week when my regular appointment was scheduled to hear how he was doing. If it wasn't gone at that point we would proceed with an ultrasound of Noah's heart and possible other monitoring and tests.

Once again we waited through the week until Friday arrived. I dropped Jim off at work (we are still sharing a vehicle) and began to drive home until time for my appointment. Driving down University, I came to its intersection with Broadway, and saw that the light was red. I moved my foot off the gas and was abut to brake when the light turned green, so I simply proceeded on in my path. As I got to the intersection I saw on my left a large semi barrelling at me, as I slammed on my brakes, he made a left turn to drive in front of me.

Immediately my little one began to punch and kick as never before. I was unsure if he was responding to my adrenaline or if it was from being squished by the seat belt, but he definitely had strong opinions about the idiot driver who I now was forced to follow most of the way toward home. I had read of placental abruption in cases of car accidents and knew that it is generally advised that if a pregnant woman is in a car accident she goes to the hospital right away, but I had not been in an actual car accident, so I contented myself with laying down and doing kick counts and then asking about it at my appointment.

I asked Dr. Ambur about seat belt placement and was surprised when she said, "Well, we can throw you up on the fetal monitor for a while, and it will give us a nice long chance to see is heartbeat." I was secretly delighted. I got to hear my little boy's heart for 20 minutes, not just for the few seconds that Dr. Ambur could manage to wrangle him to lay still for the Doppler? The fetal monitor is commonly used in non-stress tests for overdue or at-risk pregnancies. Once I was all set up on the couch, I knew that his heart was SO MUCH improved. I do not think that I heard any irregularities, and his heart reacted just as it should when he would kick or punch, or squirm. It would speed up, and then gradually slow as he stilled.

"The primary goal of the test is to measure the heart rate of the fetus in response to its own movements. Healthy babies will respond with an increased heart rate during times of movement, and the heart rate will decrease at rest. The concept behind a non-stress test is that adequate oxygen is required for fetal activity and heart rate to be within normal ranges. When oxygen levels are low, the fetus may not respond normally."

For those of you who don't know-- a fetal monitor has 2 straps that go around the pregnant woman's abdomen- one to hear the heart, and one to monitor for contractions. There is also a Jeapordy-esque toggle to hold that I was directed to push each time I felt the baby move, which was quite often. I now wish I had one at home, so that I could listen to him all of the time. I never thought that I would be thankful for a semi almost hitting me, but without it we would have had a much shorter time to listen to our boy's heart.

Surprisingly, it sounds as if most women don't share my affection for this procedure. When I told Dr. Ambur that I really appreciated getting to hear him for so long, she told me that most moms can't wait to be done with the monitor. Maybe if I was overdue (a common reason to conduct a stress test) I would feel differently. If I were a week overdue I think everything would annoy me, but for now I am content that my little boy is growing well, and that his heart is healthy (although I am still a worry-wort at times) and that he will stay put for the remaining 6 weeks as he should.

After we all listened to the regular bump, bump, bump till we were satisfied of its normalcy we were told the blessed news that Dr. Ambur tought that it would be advisable that we could go back to regular 2 week appointments, at least for a few more weeks until I am down to weekly appointments and srreenings for dialation and effacement. Eekk!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tick-Tock, Tick Tock

I feel like this giant clock is in my life-- this ticking time bomb that is set to explode, and I am anticipating it in many ways, and also dreading it in others. The worst part-- I can never forget that this explosion is imminent, because the bomb is inside of me and protruding out of the front of me at every move. However, I wouldn't wish it away for the world, because if I were, I would be wishing away one of the greatest blessings in my life. My almost-born son.

As of today, I officially have 8 weeks and 4 days left till his due date on May 8. Crazy. Typically, modern obstetrics recommends induction or a caesarean at 41 weeks, so the greatest amount of time that I have is a little more than 9 weeks. In some ways this seems like forever and I long to feel my little ones soft and fuzzy head, to see if he is a blonde as I was when I was a child, or if he has his father's dark and curly hair (I hope.) I want to hold his little hand and see his father's soft brown eyes light up as he looks at the son that fulfills a decade-long wish to be a father. I long to turn my parents into the grandparents they are eagerly anticipating becoming-- to prove right my mother's predicitions that Noah really will be the cutest baby ever. I also wouldn't mind sleeping on my stomach and drinking coffee with impunity again.

However, our calendar for these last two months have already become filled with meetings, agendas and all sorts of tasks that a good part of me fears we won't be able to complete in time. First time parenting jitters are running rampant, I will freely admit. My rational mind knows that these new-parent fears are often far from the reality that I have learned over years of working with children in so many different capacities.

  • We need to baby proof our home-- Ahhh-- there are so many dangers! The reality-- when Noah comes home to live with us, most of his days will be taken up with sleeping, eating and pooping. Considering he won't be able to roll over for much of our remaining stay in our current home, it isn't so vital that the stove guard be installed in the kitchen from day one.
  • We need to buy a house before Noah comes along-- we want our baby to be raised with a yard! The reality-- Noah could care less if we are in an apartment or house for a few months after his birth. As long as he is warm and dry and his mommy and daddy who love him are there, that is all he cares about. This worry is also conveniently forgetting about the thousands of babies and small children in urban areas that live quite comfortably in apartment homes for their entire childhood. There is one real dilemma that I haven't answered though-- is it better to move at 8 months pregnant, or with a small infant?
  • We still have so much to buy-- our registry list is huge and empty! The reality--We have many of the things that our baby will need already. My parents gifted us with the money for our crib and nursing chair, and Jim's dad gave us the money for our stroller and car seat. Many of the things on our list are non-essentials, or at least not vital for the first month after Noah is born, but will make life A LOT easier for us in the long run. Babies did fine for centuries without a Boppy-- no matter what the good people at Boppy try to tell you. I have also been blessed with the offer of my parents to throw us a shower in MI where I can see friends and family for more than 2 minutes during a holiday visit, as well as by Sara from our small group offering to throw a shower for us out here. I don't imagine that a great many people will come, since we have been in the church for less than a year, but just that they care about us enough to have a shower at all is wondrous.
  • We are totally not ready for birth! Why did I ever decide to do natural birth?! The reality-- Tonight is the second of five classes that are proving very helpful in teaching breathing and other coping techniques. I have already been surprised by the effectiveness of the breathing techniques we have been learning on my Braxton Hicks contractions. Women have been giving birth without medicine for thousands of years. Our bodies do amazing (albeit painful-- thanks Eve) things during the process of labor it is up to me to allow and assist my body in doing what it needs to do to bring Noah into the outside world.
  • Our lives will totally change! We'll never be able to go anywhere or do anything beyond 7 p.m. again! I'll never get any sleep, and my body will not be my own for at least a year! The reality-- As the commercial says, yes, "having a baby changes everything." But is the change for the better-- undoubtedly. To have a son that is mine, me combined with Jim, is an honor that I do not take lightly. We imagined, and I worried, that this might never happen for us. For us to decide to start trying, and to reach success so quickly, and just before the economic downturn that would have likely caused us to decide to wait, can't be a coincidence by any means. It is important for some reason for us to have this child, in this time, and we have only to guard and instruct this precious gift that God is entrusting to us, and to help Noah grow into who he is meant to be.
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Our Prep for Labor and Childbirth Class

This past Tuesday Jim and I began our "Preparation for Childbirth" classes up at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, where we will not be giving birth, but is part of the same hospital system as where Noah will be entering the world. My OB said that this should be fine and would save us driving into S. Minneapolis for the class every week.

It was great to finally get down to making an actual plan for the birth of our child, and to meet with other expectant families who are making the same decisions and going through the same fears and frustrations.

Some highlights were:

  • Separating into male and female groups to discuss pros and cons of pregnancy. The girls had a quite a few more cons than the guys did, and later they said that they had thought of some of what we had put up, but were worried that they would get in trouble for mentioning things like "constipation." Oddly enough the #1 pro for the guys was the tax break and #2 was the child itself! Men. We women did list the tax benefits, but under the baby, and making your parents grandparents and several other things.
  • Practicing breathing techniques. This was really helpful for me, and relaxed me almost to the point of sleeping (one guy did actually fall asleep, which I'm not sure his wife appreciated) Hopefully this will prove useful when it comes to the time where I really need it.
  • Discussing other coping techniques for the pain. I think I will get a birthing ball, and I have already known that I want to stand in the shower for quite some time before and possibly after we go to the hospital.

One of the things that wasn't a highlight was the men's uncomfortable joking. I think that this is really hard on them to actually confront the reality of their wives and girlfriends going through so much pain that they can do nothing for, and so they have resorted to joking to relieve their tension. I'm sure that as the weeks go by, they will get more accustomed to it all, and hopefully relax.

One guy that I really feel for is actually there with his sister to be the birthing coach. The poor kid looks like he is about 18 and is SO uncomfortable during one exercise where the partners had to give the ladies a hand rub, and then the women had to give the coaches a back rub how they would like to get one during labor. They didn't even attempt that one. They did do the breathing, but sat next to each other, rather than her between his legs, as the rest of us were.

It is strange, but for Jim and I, our weeknights are getting busier, even before the baby comes. Tuesday is this class, Wednesday is GEMS, and on Thursday nights is a men's Bible Study that Jim is thinking of attending, and I think will be even more vital once he steps firmly into the daddy role.

Green Pasta

It is hard to believe that the year of GEMS is almost over. Shortly I will be giving birth, and shortly the girls will be enjoying spring and then summer break. Our spring is filled with fun events, the first of which is the Bake Sale during the Cadet's Pinewood Derby this Saturday.

Last night all of the GEMS were making different treats for the bake sale, and I decided to make Spinach Fettuccine with the girls for something different, and something for people to buy who might be trying to eat healthier, but still want to support the GEMS. I was really surprised that the girls weren't totally disgusted by the cooked spinach, which is a vital component of the pasta. Several even told me that they liked to eat is raw as a salad, but not usually cooked. I'm not sure if this is a MN/MI thing, but I don't think I have had 2nd and 3rd graders before who would feel like that about spinach.

The girls really seemed to enjoy getting to add all of the ingredients, and especially looking at the slurry of spinach, eggs, oil and water that was created using the blender. They were also amazed at how "Play Dough" like the whole process was, and had fun rolling, cutting and hanging the individual strands to dry. I hope that people will be interested in the pasta after all of their hard work. I may augment some of the pasta with some I will make because they had a ton of fun decorating labels for each of the bags. Aside from that though, they really did work hard making a quality product, and also worked hard to keep things clean for their customers.

The girls are so great, and we are finally seeing some real togetherness between the girls from Faith and Calvin Christian Schools and the girls from New Life Church, in part because Kate (my wonderful co-teacher who unfortunately can't be there every week because she also is on the worship team) and I have worked to play name games or some other game with the girls most weeks.

Last night, as usual, I got more questions about Noah and what it feels like to have him be awake and asleep in there, and at one point someone began singing, "That's Elmo's World," (don't ask me why) and they soon switched it to "That's Noah's World" and Cassandra pointed to my belly and said, "That is Noah's world in there, in your belly." I have to agree, it is rather round and planet-like as of late. I can't wait to see how they will really react when they see him outside of me, after hearing about him and seeing him grow over the months. I'll probably have to be careful that he doesn't end up going home with one of the girls!

I'm still unsure how much I am going to be able to do next year. Noah will be about 4 months old when next year's GEMS start up, and although Jim is more than willing to hang out with his little guy while I am away, I'm not sure A: How much I will want to be away, and B: how pumping will go, and IF I will be able to be away for even that length of time. We have talked about having childcare for workers next year, and I might end up doing that so I can have him with me and still be of service, because I don't want to totally drop off from volunteering simply by having a child.

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